Low-calorie cocktails: 7 drinks under 160 calories to try on a diet

Low-calorie cocktails are great alternatives to your regular tipple if you're looking to lose weight or try something new

Group of women enjoying low-calorie cocktails on summer's day
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Low-calorie cocktails are ideal if you're heading out for the evening and want to enjoy yourself - but have healthy, sustainable weight loss in mind. From margaritas to Moscow Mules, we've served up the best lower-sugar alcoholic beverages for inspiration, all under 160 calories per serving. 

As you'll learn, some classic cocktails are naturally lower in sugar while the ingredients of others can be tweaked to bring the calorie count down without compromising on flavour. However, this doesn't mean they are 'good' for you - any alcohol should be consumed in moderation to protect your health. 

If you want to mix up your lowest-calorie alcohol options without opting for low-calorie alcoholic drinks in a can, we've got you covered. We've called on an expert to explain what to consider when choosing what to sip on - including the best spirit and mixer choice - and why your choice can affect any weight loss goals.

Best low-calorie cocktails to order

1. Vodka and soda

Vodka and soda

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for a low-calorie cocktail that tops the rest, then this is it. It's a classic combination that isn't for those who like their drink sweet. It's made of a simple but refreshing mix of vodka and soda water - with an optional slice of lemon or lime to garnish. 

Approximate number of calories: 95, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of vodka 

2. Mojito


(Image credit: Getty Images)

A classic mojito isn't usually the best option. While it contains lime juice, mint leaves and soda, it also has generous sugar and rum servings which bring the total calories to around 240 on average. However, with just a few tweaks you can bring that number down. Just ask for a shot of rum with lime juice, some mint and Sprite Zero Sugar for fruity sweetness.  

Approximate number of calories: 79, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of rum

3. Gin and tonic

Gin and tonic

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A great choice if you're in a bar and are stuck for what to order - but just make sure that you stick to one shot of gin and order diet tonic water to go along with it. However, if you forget, the calorie count will be 93 for a double, which still brings your drink under a hundred calories.

Approximate number of calories: 64, based on one shot (1.5 ounces/ 44ml) of gin

4. Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It might be best known as a popular accompaniment to Sunday brunch but this drink makes a brilliant low-calorie cocktail choice at other times too. Mix a shot of vodka with 170ml tomato juice, a teaspoon of lemon juice, half a teaspoon of celery salt, two to three drops of hot sauce (like Tabasco), two to three drops of Worcester sauce and one dash of pepper. It's sure got a kick.

Approximate number of calories: 134, based on one shot (44ml) of vodka

5. Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This drink usually contains about 182 calories, but a few easy swaps - like ditching the regular ginger beer and syrup - can reduce the calorie count. Stir together a shot of vodka with 14ml of lime juice, and 85ml of zero-calorie ginger beer and top with a lime wedge.

Approximate number of calories: 97, based on one shot (44ml) of vodka

6. Tequila sunrise

Tequila sunrise

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Perfect for a sunny day thanks to its colorful hue. Once more, a few changes are required to bring this drink down in calorie count. Shake together one shot of tequila, with a third cup of fresh orange juice and 44ml grenadine syrup - a slice of orange and a cocktail cherry can be used to finish.

Approximate number of calories: 157, based on one shot (44ml) of tequila

7. Martini


(Image credit: Getty Images)

A classy low-calorie cocktail choice that most bartenders will (or should) know how to make. It's a shot of vodka stirred with 29ml vermouth - with an olive or two thrown in. Beware flavored martini options which have a much greater sugar content.

Approximate number of calories: 120, based on one shot (44ml) of vodka

Woman drinking cocktail

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to make low calorie cocktails 

You'll probably find yourself predominently ordering your low calorie cocktails at a bar - and the above should provide delicious inspiration for healthier options and requests for your bartender. However, if you want to whip one up at home, it's useful to know which ingredients are best if you're aiming for healthy, sustainable weight loss.

Firstly, there's usually a spirit - like low-calorie vodka, gin, rum and tequila - to consider. “All of them start with a main raw ingredient, such as grains (for example, barley), fruit (grapes or other fruit) or potatoes before fermentation begins," explains nutritionist Elisa Gomez de Bonilla. "Then the water with the base is heated until it has reached boiling point. Next, the steam is collected, which becomes ethanol or pure alcohol. The alcohol grae is then reduced, with the percentage of alcohol of each spirit up to the distillery."

It is also important to consider what the spirit is then mixed with. “Cocktails contain additional calories you may not have counted," says Gomez de Bonilla, who works for the Oxford Online Pharmacy. "For example, a piña colada can contain up to 490 calories from the cream and syrup. Most cocktail bases, such as gin, vodka, rum, whisky or tequila, contain not much under a hundred calories per shot, but liqueurs such as Tia Maria or Baileys can have up to 170 calories per shot due to the added sugar and cream."

How can you reduce the calories in your cocktail? "In terms of low-sugar mixers, swap tonic water for the diet version, and change regular fizzy pop for a diet version - like original Coke for Coke Zero or Diet Coke," she says. "No-added sugar juice and soda water can also keep the numbers down, and if you want to use cream, choose the lower-fat version." Enlist mint and lime to add flavour and avoid calorie-rich liqueurs, sugary syrups and other flavourings. Get a little inspiration with these easy mixers...

  • Schweppes Diet Tonic Water - no calories per 350ml serving
  • San Pellegrino Sparkling Water - no calories per 350ml serving
  • Coke Zero / Diet Coke - 1 calorie per 350ml serving
  • Sprite Zero Sugar - no calories per 350ml serving
  • Apple juice (no added sugar) - 120 calories per 350ml serving
  • Orange juice (no added sugar) - 153 calories per 350ml serving
  • Cranberry juice (no added sugar) - 156 calories per 350ml serving
  • Lime juice - seven calories per 350ml serving

You may also want to opt for low-calorie alternatives to alcohol. Many of these don't contain alcohol - but taste as good as the real thing, making for a perfect swap-out for your drink. These include alcohol-free gins, rums, and whiskies. 

Why does it matter how many calories cocktails have? Any drinking - whether a margarita or a glass of chardonnay - can impact healthy sustainable weight loss. "There are seven calories per gram of alcohol," explains Elisa Gomez de Bonilla. "These are considered empty calories, meaning they do not meet the relevant nutritional needs but are stored in our bodies as fat."

Drinking can sabotage your other efforts to slim down in other ways too. "Alcohol may slow the body's fat-burning abilities," she warns. "The liver is responsible for storing and processing the fat, carbohydrates and proteins we consume, turning them into energy. Our bodies can't store alcohol so it has to be broken down by the liver before anything else. This, in turn, interrupts and slows your metabolic rate and reduces the amount of fat the body burns for energy."

Lauren Clark

Lauren is a freelance writer and editor with more than six years of digital and magazine experience. In addition to Womanandhome.com she has penned news and features for titles including Women's Health, The Telegraph, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, The Sun's Fabulous, Yahoo Style UK and Get The Gloss. 

While Lauren specializes in covering wellness topics—ranging from nutrition and fitness, to health conditions and mental wellbeing—she has written across a diverse range of lifestyle topics, including beauty and travel. Career highlights so far include: luxury spa-hopping in Spain, interviewing Heidi Klum and joining an £18k-a-year London gym.